Friday, May 12, 2006

Education Minnesota promotes health insurance mandate

Health insurance can be a dry topic, but the Education Minnesota teachers union is promoting a health insurance plan that would impact every public school district in Minnesota. Taxpayers should take notice.

The Association of Metropolitan School Districts (AMSD) sent the following position statement on the proposal to force all school districts to join a health insurance buying pool, a mandate that could increase health insurance costs for many districts. The statement was sent to legislators and AMSD member school districts:
AMSD opposes legislation that would create a mandatory statewide health insurance pool for school employees. Specifically, AMSD is opposed to HF 517/SF 1459, legislation that would mandate all school employees join a statewide health insurance pool, as well as an alternative proposal which mandates that employees in school districts with fewer than 400 full-time teachers join a modified Public Employee Insurance Program (PEIP).

There has been some confusion as to whether or not the proposal that would mandate that school employees in districts with fewer than 400 full-time teachers join PEIP is a compromise. In fact, this is NOT a compromise proposal and AMSD is opposed to this measure which is currently contained in the House State Government Finance Bill, HF 2833.

Under HF 2833, 317 of the state’s 344 school districts would be immediately mandated into PEIP. School employees in school districts with more than 400 full-time teachers are also greatly impacted by this proposal. The proposal allows each exclusive bargaining unit in districts with more than 400 full-time teachers to determine whether or not they will join the PEIP pool with the school board and other employee groups having no say in the matter. Local control would be severely compromised under this proposal.

Alternatively, AMSD supports HF 3625/SF 3359, legislation that would provide new voluntary options to school districts through the Public Employee Insurance Plan (PEIP). This proposal would maintain local control by allowing school boards to work with their employees and communities to design a health insurance plan that best meet their needs. Under HF 3625/SF 3359, school boards and their employee groups would have the option of joining the modified PEIP program which would offer coverage similar to what is currently available to state employees. School boards and their employees would have available to them the same benefit design and health care cost containment and quality improvement initiatives now available to state employees. At the same time, those school boards and employees groups that have worked hard through the collective bargaining process to design a health plan with cost containment measure and a benefit design that meets their needs would not be forced to abandon that effort.
According to AMSD Executive Director Scott Croonquist in an e-mail to AMSD members, "It appears that there will be an amendment offered tomorrow [May 12] in the Senate and possibly the House related to the mandatory school employee health insurance pool. In the Senate, the likely target is the State Government Finance bill, SF 2618, authored by Sen. Sheila Kiscaden. In the House it is possible that there will be an attempt to amend the Education policy bill, HF 3179, sponsored by Rep. Mark Buesgens."

You wouldn't let them campaign on a platform of more mandates, decreased local control, and higher fixed costs for school districts, so why let them govern that way?

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